Mueller investigation: DOJ OK’d probe into alleged collusion between Manafort, Russians

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last year authorized special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate allegations that President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, colluded with Russian government officials who interfered in the 2016 presidential election, according to multiple reports.

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Attorneys for Manafort argued in a complaint filed in January that Rosenstein overstepped his authority with his May 2017 appointment of Mueller and that the special counsel’s investigation is overly broad. However, a memo filed in court Monday night showed that Rosenstein specifically authorized Mueller’s probe of Manafort.

>> Related: Paul Manafort sues special counsel Robert Mueller, DOJ

The memo, dated Aug. 2, 2017, was obtained by news organizations including Politico and CNN.

Rosenstein wrote that his May 2017 order naming Mueller as special counsel for the Justice Department "was worded categorically in order to permit its public release without confirming specific investigations involving specific individuals." He specified some of the allegations that fell under Mueller's investigative scope in the memo, most of which was redacted because it contains classified and sensitive law enforcement information, Politico reported.

>> Related: Who is Robert Mueller, the man named special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russian interference?

An unredacted portion showed Mueller was authorized to investigate allegations that Manafort colluded with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. He was also authorized to investigate whether Manafort “committed a crime or crimes arising out of payments he received from the Ukrainian government before and during the tenure of President Viktor Yanukovych.”

Manafort and former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates were indicted in October on a dozen charges in connection with consulting work they did in Ukraine. A federal grand jury in Virginia indicted Manafort in February on new charges of tax evasion and bank fraud.

Gates pleaded guilty in February to making false statements and conspiring against the United States. Manafort has maintained his innocence.

Four other people have pleaded guilty in connection with the Mueller investigation. A judge on Tuesday sentenced Dutch attorney Alex van der Zwaan to 30 days in jail after he pleaded guilty to lying to authorities about his communications with Gates.

Manafort is scheduled to go to trial on the charges out of Virginia in July, Politico reported. He will appear in court in September for the charges filed in Washington.

Mueller headed the FBI from 2001 to 2013. He was tasked in May 2017 with investigating “links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from” that investigation.

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